Dušan Vukotić – First Croatian Oscar Winner

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Dušan Vukotić’s Surogat was the first foreign animated movie to win an Oscar in 1962

Yesterday marked the 19th anniversary of the death of Dušan Vukotić, the first foreigner to win an Oscar for the best Animated Short in 1961, for his film Surogat (Ersatz). It’s a simple story about a man who comes to the beach and uses inflatable objects for all his needs, and every object there, no matter how unlikely, is inflatable. Vukotić’s Oscar is one of the three won by Croats – the other two belong to film producer Branko Lustig.

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Another one of his films was nominated for an Academy Award – Igra (“The Game”), in 1964.

Vukotić was born in Bileća (now Bosnia and Herzegovina; Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes at the time) in 1927. His mother and father were of Montenegrin descent.

He studied Architecture in Zagreb and was one of the founding members of Zagreb Film, a film company known for its animation studio, sometimes referred to as the Zagreb School of Animation. Vukotić worked there for four decades, and he also taught film directing at the Zagreb Academy for Dramatic Art.

According to rembrandtfilms.com, Zagreb Film Studio was a ground-breaking institution in many aspects – in addition to limiting the number of drawings against rudimentary or abstract backgrounds, another of the studio’s pioneering distinctions was that a single artist would work in direction, design, drawing, and story. When Vukotić’s short, The Playful Robot (1956), won an award at the Pula Film Festival, the new Zagreb Film was one of the world’s most influential animation studios.

Vukotić’s earliest cartoons were satires of American movie genres: Cowboy Jimmy, The Great Fear, and Concerto for a Machine Gun. Piccolo, which Vukotić directed, designed, and animated himself, was among the first in a wave of Zagreb cartoons that reflected his strongly-held belief in auteurism and individual style. In the late 1960s, he experimented with combining live-action and animation in such films as The Game, Ars Gratia Artis, and A Stain on His Conscience.

After the 1960s, he rarely made short animated films, but he did make three full-length movies – a fantasy tale for children, Sedmi kontinent (“The Seventh Continent”, 1966), an action movie, Akcija Stadion (“Operation Stadium”), and a science fiction/horror parody Gosti iz galaksije (“Visitors from the Galaxy of Arkana”, 1981). In 1963, he was a member of the jury at the 3rd Moscow International Film Festival and in 1973, he became a member of the Montenegrin Academy of Sciences and Arts.

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The last film he made was “Welcome to Planet Earth” in 1993, before receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at Animafest Zagreb in 1994. Dušan Vukotić died in Krapinske Toplice on July 8, 1998.

Vukotić’s wife was Melita (Lila) Andres Vukotić, the first pin-up model in Croatia and granddaughter of famous Croatian historian, Ferdo Šišić. She was a talented actress who refused offers from Hollywood so that she could stay and work with her husband in Zagreb. They met while she was working as the assistant to the director of Zagreb film.

Lili na naslovnici beogradske Duge, 1956. godina

Mrs Andres Vukotić said in an interview for Jutarnji four years ago that she felt sad because neither the city of Zagreb nor the country honoured her husband’s work and that she would leave all 150 awards her husband had received during his lifetime to Zagreb’s Museum of Contemporary Art.


Mrs Andres Vukotić died 10 days ago, on June 29, 2017.

You can watch Surogat and Piccolo below:




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